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Microsoft co-founder’s art collection sells for record $1.5 billion at auction

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(NEW YORK) — Sixty artworks formerly owned by Paul G. Allen, the co-founder of Microsoft, were sold at auction for more than $1.5 billion at Christie’s on Wednesday.

The sale established Allen’s trove as “the most valuable private collection in history,” the auction house said in a statement.

Allen, who died in 2018, collected work that spanned centuries. Wednesday’s auction included works by Pablo Picasso, Vincent Van Gogh, Rene Magritte, Georgia O’Keeffe and David Hockney.

The highest bid in Wednesday’s auction was $149.2 million for “Les Posses, Ensemble (Petite version),” an 1888 Pointillism painting by Georges Seurat.

Christie’s quoted Allen has having said, “Because of my computer background, I’m attracted to things like Pointillism or a Jasper Johns ‘numbers’ work because they come from breaking something down into its components — like bytes or numbers, but in a different kind of language.”

Paul Cezanne’s “La Montagne Sainte-Victoire” sold for $137.8 million, Christie’s said. Works by Van Gogh and Gauguin also topped $100 million.

“Never before have more than two paintings exceeded $100 million in a single sale, but tonight, we saw five,” said Max Carter, vice chairman of 20th and 21st Century Art at Christies, in a statement. “Four were masterpieces from the fathers of modernism — Cezanne, Seurat, Van Gogh and Gauguin.”

About 65% of pieces auctioned on Wednesday sold above their expected prices, the auction house said. Proceeds from the sale will go to philanthropic causes, in accordance with Allen’s wishes, Christie’s said.

Wednesday’s auction didn’t include all of Allen’s collection.

Another 95 pieces are scheduled to be auctioned on Thursday afternoon under the title “Visionary: The Paul G. Allen Collection Part II,” according to Christie’s.

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